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Sermon - 6/30/19
2019.07.08 22:07:49

Proper 8/C [Pent. 3] (2019): 1 Kings 19:9b-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62.  

 

Freedom,               For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (v. 13). 

 

We tend to think of freedom in worldly terms, a personal condition to do what we decide. Of course, such notion is illusory, it does not exist for man or for God, who from the foundation of the world bound himself in Christ crucified to the welfare and vicissitudes of sinful men. 

 

Rather, St. Paul urges us to a different “freedom”, the freedom to follow Jesus by the Spirit apart from the strictures of law; yet binding us to Christ who prays the Father, “Thy will be done”. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus set his face as flint toward Jerusalem, the Holy City and locus of God’s temple, there to suffer rejection and death. Our Christian freedom consists in following Jesus with the same flint like determination; and when we fail from time to time, then return in repentance to our acolyte vocation. 

 

Today’s Lessons are replete with failures and successes in the Spirit’s leading in love. Elijah was a suffering prophet.  He was given to preach the one, true God to the northern tribes of Israel, most having fallen into the apostacy of Baal worship re-introduced by queen Jezebel.  Elijah after destroying much of the queen’s priesthood became terrified from her murderous threats and the people’s anger. 

 

The place of God’s dwelling in the Land was the Jerusalem temple. Elijah runs away, overshooting Jerusalem, returning instead to Mt. Horeb in search of the Lord.  On arriving, God incredulously asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kgs. 19:9b).

 

Elijah was despondent, complaining his task too difficult, his enemies too powerful, and that he was the last faithful servant of YHWH. Dispirited, Elijah wanted nothing other than to remain apart from the on-going spiritual warfare in the Land, a return to the desert womb of monastic solace and quietude. 

 

To follow God’s lead involves determination to engage his enemies. God refreshed Elijah’s spirit, reminded him that the mountain to which he came was no longer his dwelling place on earth as in the day of Moses.  

 

God no long reveals himself in the terrors of nature; rock splitting wind, earth’s quaking, nor in smoke and fiery destruction. Instead God makes his presence known in human speech, gentle words as in, “a low whisper” (v. 12) and with the things to which his word attaches for cleansing and nourishment; words Elijah was now commissioned to preach on return to the Land. 

 

God assured Elijah he was not alone in fidelity; there remained a remnant of 7,000 in Israel. God gave Elijah new directives, again sending him into the Land of his presence; to preach, anoint kings and call his own replacement, Elisha as prophet of Israel.  On Elijah’s fiery departure to heaven Elisha would receive a double portion of his Spirit for God’s prophetic work (2 Kgs. 2:9b, 15). 

 

In today’s Gospel, James and John follow Jesus in the same enthusiastic spirit of Elijah. Samaria, was the former domain of queen Jezebel and king Ahab; if it no longer was the place of Baal worship, it nevertheless was the center of a false religion mimicking that from Moses.  Jesus was destined for Jerusalem, the place of Israel’s true mosaic religion; and for this reason, the Samaritan village refused Jesus their hospitality.    

 

In days past Elijah called down heaven’s fire on the 450 prophets and priests of Baal; he killed them with the sword (1 Kgs. 18:22, 38-40). James and John confronted with the Samaritan village insult intended to act as Jesus’ ministers of judgment (cf. Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 20:20-28).

 

James and John recently witnessed Jesus transfigured in glory and heard the Father’s testimony to his Son. For the Samaritan insult the Apostles would incinerate the village.  But it was James and John whom Jesus rebuked, not the village.  Like Peter before they were acting as Satan; they had gotten out front of Jesus’ lead; they were no longer followers according to God’s “low whisper” destined for rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection. 

 

Today we who confess the Church’s one holy catholic and apostolic faith look about at what passes as “broader Christendom”; we lament with Elijah, James, and John its definitional inhospitality toward God’s “word and sacrament presence”, and so “a different gospel” (Gal.1:6). 

 

Lament and prayer are appropriate, but if it is passes into anger and judgment toward those in doctrinal error of the Church’s sole confession, then we earn Jesus’ rebuke. When we, especially pastors, use imprecatory words toward heretics rather than proclaiming the gospel’s “low whisper” of Christ crucified for all, then we join those with “a different spirit” (2 Cor. 11:4) than the Spirit who leads us in love. 

 

After the Samaritan rejection, Jesus continued onto Jerusalem and his rejection on the cross (Lk. 9:44). On the way, he taught three aspiring applicants to follow; the first expressed “undying commitment”; the remaining two qualified their discipleship, claiming family prioities. 

 

Jesus clarifies for all three, and you and I, what it means to follow him to Jerusalem, the city that rejecting him would become the city of God’s wrath; but on its outskirt, the place of God presence in Jesus lifted on the cross. 

 

If you have not absorbed the import of Jesus saying, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead (Lk. 9:60); and “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v.62) it is this:

 

Apart from Baptism natural man’s home is the dust of the earth; for those desiring to remain, fine, bury them and bid them farewell; but by all means enter into your true family relations with your new mother, the church, and so with new brothers and sisters in Christ who gives you a new Father in a new begetting from above (Jn. 3:3, 7). Look to your right, left, behind, and in front of you; these are your family; open yourselves to treat them as such. 

 

Jesus was an alien, a pilgrim in this world; and baptized into him, so now we are too. He is Son of Man having no place to lay his head in this world (v. 58).  He was returning to the place of his eternal “Beginning” (Jn. 1:1); his head having it rest upon the Father’s bosom (NKJV, Lk. 16:22 [Abraham, cypher for God]).  

 

The Father sent Jesus, anointed by JB (his end times Elijah, Mt. 17:11-13) to receive a “double portion” of God’s Spirit for universal sacrificial atonement and those who receive him in faith’s hospitality.

 

We are of the world, it is our home, and we are at home in it, until the day when we are lay our heads upon its dust covered pillow. But in following Jesus to the cross, the place of exodus to the Father, we hear the “low whisper” of the gospel, the promise that Christ’s flesh is the new dwelling place of God.  We are invited, “come-on in, the water is fine”. 

 

Of ourselves we are unable to unqualifiedly follow. Elisha was a prophesy of Christ, receiving Elijah’s mantle for proclaiming God’s “low whisper”, walking to-and-fro by the Spirit.  This also is the gift of our Baptism, to which if you follow you must daily return. 

 

By Baptism we are one in Christ, invited to his universal hospitality. At his table we are disciples reclining on Jesus’ breast, ones whom he loves (NKJV, Jn. 13:23).  And from this posture he sends us into the world to act in love’s freedom through lives that individually proclaim God’s love in Christ.  Amen.

 

pem.




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